Red Rocks Road Changes

Early stages of grading for the new road alignment.

Early stages of grading for the new road alignment, January 4, 2016.

On the first business day of the new year, heavy equipment started rolling at Red Rocks Park. Several changes had been proposed and discussed in months previous, and Denver Arts & Venues was moving forward. The Upper North Parking Lot was to be paved and reconfigured, the intersection of Alameda Parkway and Trading Post Road would be revised, and Red Rocks Park Road between the Lower South lots was to be straightened to accommodate additional parking.

Representatives from the historic preservation community were particularly critical of this realignment of one of the last historic road segments of the park road system, especially in light of the recent designation of the Park as a National Historic Landmark. The road system is a “contributing feature” to the historic designation, one of the key elements that indicated its qualifications for designation as Colorado’s newest national landmark.

By January 5, 2016, significant progress was made in removing native vegetation and outlining the new road.

By January 5, 2016, significant progress was made in removing native vegetation and outlining the new road.

“…the proposed work has the potential to impact adversely the significant designed landscape at Red Rocks, including approximately 2000′ of the historic road corridor. The circa-1929 alignment was designed to specifically and deliberately progress through the landscape at this location, and has well withstood over 85 years of use.”
—Astrid Liverman, History Colorado, April 22, 2015

On only the second day of work, the new road was taking shape.

On only the second day of work, January 5, the new road was taking shape.

“Please keep in mind, our review and comments about the improvements should not be construed as any sort of approval for altering the historic road and parking lot features within the nominated NHL. These alterations are discouraged by the National Park Service because they have an adverse effect on the historic site, and should be avoided if at all possible.”
—Tom Keohan, National Park Service, April 2015

By January 22, grading of the new parking area was underway.

By January 22, grading of the new parking area was underway, and work on the intersection to the north was clearly visible as well.

“… we respectfully suggest that any benefit or modest gain in parking to result from the proposal does not warrant the impact to this significant structure. Adverse impacts to the design landscape weaken the integrity of the nationally significant district as a whole.”
— Steve W. Turner, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer

The Icelantic “Winter on the Rocks” event took place on January 29th. By that time, the new road was graveled as was the entire parking lot.

By February 11, the road and parking lot were graveled and sidewalks were in. Cutbanks for the northern intersection were covered with landscape fabric.

By February 11, the road and parking lot were graveled and sidewalks were in. Cutbanks for the northern intersection were covered with landscape fabric.

Closer view on February 11 shows work underway in preparation for paving, which was completed a day or two later.

Closer view on February 11 shows work underway in preparation for paving, which was completed a day or two later.

“This roadway is listed as a contributing feature of the National Historic Landmark, currently pending approval by the Secretary of Interior. By realigning and straightening the road, the integrity of this contributing feature of the NHL will be adversely affected. … While reasonable people can disagree on the impact of the road relocation, there is consensus in the historic preservation community that the road project will incur unnecessary impacts and should be avoided. … design alternatives were never considered nor analyzed for this project.”
—Kevin Lyles, landscape architect and HALS consultant [emphasis ours]

Despite repeated recommendations from the historic preservation community, Secretary of Interior standards for the treatment of cultural landscapes do not appear to have been followed for this project. Although the National Park Service and the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission reviewed the project early in 2015, neither agency had jurisdiction to require adaptation of the project or consideration of alternatives. Denver Arts & Venues was free to proceed, at the expense of one of Red Rocks Park’s significant historical features.

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